One Less Lonely Girl

Patience, love, and strength–that’s some of what it takes.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Family Saga Fiction at Middlemay Farm

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It’s been a year since our foster girl first pointed out she could kill me with a steak knife–and it wasn’t the last threat on my life. Each time she casually mentioned killing me I casually responded that I had no fear of death and if she wanted to kill people she’d end up in a jail for evil kids who all wanted to kill each other. I said, “Go for it if that sounds like fun.”

It occurred to me today that those threats ended some months ago. She hasn’t picked up string beans off the floor of public restrooms and eaten them in a long time either. My big fear before picking up M last year (the week of the all important county fair) was that I’d find her unattractive. Yes, I’m that shallow. She was cute but a wreck. She was eager to be taken home (by…

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Three Ways a Mother, Part II

Interview by Luanne

“Being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.” Kat Mendoza

Part I can be found here.

On Friday, we introduced Kathy Mendoza and her husband John, as well as their foster, bio, and adopted children.  Kathy, or Kat, is a stay-at-home mom and John, who was born in the Philippines, is a federal police officer.  They have a transracial and diverse loving family.

Here is the second part of my interview with Kat.

How did you choose whether to adopt from foster care, a local adoption, an international adoption, etc.? What factors did you consider? Do you still feel the same way you did when you made the decision?

Adoption was always a by-product.  It is only the right option when it is a fit on all sides. And, yes, we feel the same because we will do it again when the situation is right. But we do not need the paper to say who is or isn’t our child.

What has surprised you about your foster children and your son by adoption?

How resilient kids are. They are absolutely no different from my step or biological sons. They are mine, and I get the same moments of pride and joy with each.

What would you like to see changed in the system?

The system isn’t what needs to change; it is society’s views of the children in foster care and the children who have been adopted. People assume something is wrong with the child. I believe that this is a cultural thing. There are cultures where it is not only more accepted, but normal to foster or adopt.

What qualifications do you think it takes to be a foster parent? An adoptive parent? An adoptive parent in a foster adoption?

Just being open. They say being a parent means having your heart walking around somewhere else, but being a foster parent means you are giving a piece of your heart away and you may not see it again.

It is supposed to be that way.  As a foster parent, you have to be open to the fact that the child may not stay.

There are misconceptions. I have actually had people tell me they were surprised we do it because we can have kids–that they thought only infertile couples do foster care or adoption.

Do you have resources that help you? If so, what are they?

We were blessed with awesome social workers.  Since we just moved and are in the process of having our license changed to a new county, I have high hopes that we will be as lucky here.

But the best support are other foster parents. No one will understand what you go through unless they have been through it. And what works in a clinical or school setting is not going to be as effective as the tried and true home methods of other parents!

Do you have a little story about your children you would like to share?

The most recent thing my oldest told me was he wished we could get his younger brother so that we could straighten him out. This is the same “child” who told me after his graduation that if it wasn’t for us he didn’t think he would have been there that night.

That same evening I watched two of my kids graduate, beating the 50% odds.  I cried from happiness.

Have you volunteered or worked with any agencies for foster children or adoptions?

I have spoken at the last class given to prospective foster parents each year.  Later on, when I would see them, they would tell me they have taken my suggestions.  These include making sure the biological parents get pictures, the kids are sent to visitations with their parents in clothes the parents send, and starting a scrapbook or Lifebook for the kids.

Also, I have held a few offices for our local Foster Parent Association. We worked to make sure other foster parents had more opportunities to fulfill their continuing education requirements and that they understand what their rights and responsibilities are.

What do you want the general population to know about the foster system and the adoption system?

It is a personal decision to foster or adopt.  I have heard so many people say they couldn’t do it, but these are the same people who have stepped up and accepted my kids without any shadow of a doubt. We have been blessed with friends and family who didn’t have a choice in the matter, but have been supportive without hesitation. More people could do it than they realize.

However, there are many other ways to help. People can mentor, donate, the opportunities are endless.

Has your experience with fostering and/or adoption affected your politics? In other words, is it a topic you watch for during election season?

I have yet to hear of any politician run on a platform covering foster care or adoption. In fact, through fostering older kids, I have seen their advisory boards push for and receive change. They ask for treatment to be changed, they lobby our government, and they have been with our governor and president when new bills were signed making the situations of the children better.

What do you think motivates you to foster children?

Our motivation is to give back, but John and I have different reasons. I had an idyllic childhood and feel I couldn’t appreciate it and value it enough if I was not trying to make the childhoods of others better.

A family took my husband under their wing when he came to this country.  By doing so they gave him opportunities he would have had a hard time copying, so he feels he should do the same for others.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Even from the unknown public we have received acceptance, for the most part. People will stop to tell me what a beautiful family I have or how cute my kids are. People have stopped me to say I’m doing a great job with my kids. I have yet to come against negativity.  In fact, the “worst” has only been good-natured curiosity.

I do correct terminology when people use the expression “real kids.” There was one time a friend of a friend stopped mid-sentence asking where our one child got his curly hair (I was in a phase of straightening my own all of the time), and we laughed because he looked at John and myself, then walked away. We figure he concluded our son was the by-product of an indiscretion. If he had stuck around we would have been happy to explain. My oldest son has been mistaken for daddy before. He or myself will say he is big brother or I am his mother. I only wish that in our culture we could look past the label of foster or adopted child as quickly as the diversity of my family has been accepted!

Also, I want to add something for people to know: teens aren’t automatically harder. Yes, they will try you, but all teens will. I know that I did with my parents! And I have run into situations where teens are easier than some younger kids, just because you can reason with older kids. You can walk through problems and emotions more easily.

This has been an amazing experience for my biological son. He asks to see his big brother and friend, and the kids I have had previously. He once told me that when he gets older he will ask God to find him a little boy that doesn’t have a daddy so he can be the daddy.

The more you reflect on your situation, the more you think of . . . .

Here’s one more.  Just the little everyday things we have taken for granted–photos, holidays, trips–they are all amazing to experience with children. Taking one of my kids on their first roller coaster ride will probably be etched in my memory forever. You get to experience everything again through new eyes. Going clothes shopping have been memorable experiences with my kids. It might be cliché to quote Winnie the Pooh, but the littlest things do take up the most room in your heart!

John and Kat

John and Kat

Three Ways a Mother: A Story of Biology, Adoption and Foster Care, Part I

Interviewed by Luanne

Meet Kathy Mendoza and her husband John.  Kathy, or Kat, is a stay-at-home mom and John, who was born in the Philippines, is a federal police officer.  The children in their family help create the diverse blend that is their family:

  • foster daughter Shy, 21, African-American, she has “aged out” of foster care and is mom to a toddler
  • foster son Day, 20, African-American, he’s in a semi-independent living program
  • John’s son Bran, 18, Caucasian & Filipino, he’s in college
  • bio son J, 7, Caucasian & Filipino
  • adopted son T, 3, African-American & Caucasian

Kat was kind enough to allow me to interview her for our blog.  Here are the results, Part I.

What kind of goals regarding children did you enter adulthood with? Did you plan to adopt? Care for foster children? Did you want to go through (or did you go through) a birth experience?

I only wanted four kids and it never occurred to me how they would come to be mine. I was always open to foster care and adoption. I did have J biologically.

I remember asking my mom why she didn’t adopt. I was her miracle baby, and I know she wanted more. I wasn’t raised with my half-siblings, so I felt I was missing out and didn’t want to have an only child.

How has your family life changed from what you expected?

I have more kids than I had planned on, and I am not done. I don’t know when that feeling of being finished caring for children will happen. I joke I am trying to catch up with my grandparents who had 21 kids!

How did you first get started on the path to fostering children?

I have always wanted to. My grandparents fostered back in the time when single moms had their children removed until they were independently stable. As I was growing up, one of her girls drove across the state with her mom to see my grandmother. I saw it as a positive experience.

My husband was not always as sure until he started working for the juvenile justice system.  The state started a program encouraging employees already working with kids to foster. When John approached me my first thought was ok, what took you so long?!

When did you first get licensed in foster care? What did you go through to get licensed? Do you have to reapply and if so what is the process like?

It will be five years this October that we were licensed. We started the previous March with the nine week classes.  During the summer we had our home study, family study, health department inspection, financial check, background checks, personal referrals, medical forms, and fire marshal inspection. Each year we are relicensed, and most of the same is done, but it isn’t a burden in any way. We also have to have so many hours of education regarding children each year.

Do you continue a relationship with your foster children after they leave your care?

Absolutely! My two oldest are mine.  We talk on the phone, text, chat online, and my door is always open! Our oldest son’s best friend has become one of our unofficial kids as well. I still try to keep in contact with a couple younger kids. Even the kids I have only had for weekend respite, I still ask about. A kid may leave my home, but they do not leave my heart! And they need to have the continued contact, no matter their age or circumstances.

What bothers you the most about the situation your foster children have been put in?

That they are in foster care in the first place! That something bad happened to them and the people meant to protect them most didn’t. That I can’t just wave a magic wand and make it all better.

What do you want the general population to know about foster children?

They are great kids who they can help. Children aren’t in foster care because they did something wrong. They aren’t in the system because they want to be.

They need support in their lives.  They need the village, and anything helps! And they are my real children (yes, I was asked that and responded they were all made of bubble gum and cotton candy).

Anything you would like to add at this point in our interview?

One special thing from my oldest son: he told me he wants to foster when he gets older, too. No matter if he does or doesn’t, it meant a lot to me because it shows the impact we have had on him.

Find Part II here.

There’s Really a Magazine About Foster Care?

by Luanne

Yup, there really is a magazine about Foster Care.  It’s called Foster Focus.    

They have a great website, as well, and a fan page on Facebook.

You can subscribe for 12 issues for $25 if you go through Paypal.

Here is a reprint from their “about” page on the website:

Judges, lawyers, caseworkers, advocates, foster parents, adoptive parents, foster care alumni, guidance counselors, teachers, principles and current foster youth all read Foster Focus. The go-to source of foster care news and information for anyone involved in anyway with the foster care industry.

Foster Focus is a monthly magazine dealing exclusively and entirely with the Foster Care Industry.  The core of the magazine are seven monthly featured sections, Anonymous FacesAsk a ProEditor’s NotesFamily AdventuresGuest Speaker, What Do They DO? A nonprofit profile and Lawmakers.  These sections coupled with cover stories and coverage of events focused on foster care will, in fact make for the most in depth view of the Foster Care Industry ever published.  Accomplished doctors, attorneys and psychiatrists and New York Times bestselling authors make up the writing staff for Foster Focus they add credibility and project a sense of understanding to our readers. A range of stories and subjects are covered, highlights include; interviews with Country star Jimmy Wayne and From the NFL’s New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham, exclusive stories by Dr.John DeGarmo, Rhonda Sciortino, FCAA CEO Adam Robe and Casey Family Planning CEO William Bell.

Another service offered by Foster Focus is the website, which can be viewed at http://www.FosterFocusMag.com, It has excerpts of the magazines authors and highlights of the monthly sections and allows non-subscribers the opportunity to subscribe via the internet.

 

A Mom’s View on Foster Care Adoption

by guest blogger Shannon Mackie

I am the mom to two children through foster care adoption: 8-year-old BE and 5-year-old BC. My kids are biological siblings and we’ve been a family since 2010.When I talk about our adoption, I often call it “semi-open.” I’m all for open adoptions, but often the reasons that foster children come into care makes it very difficult to maintain first family connections. However, my husband and I recognize the importance of these connections and have worked to encourage them.

Shannon Mackie

Shannon Mackie

At this point, contact with my kids’ parents is not on the agenda, but we have managed to build relationships with their aunts, cousins, and half siblings. And, we have continued to visit with their foster family.

I was recently discussing my kids with some new acquaintances, and I told them that one of the things I love most about our adoption is the way that it expanded our family in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. In fact, these “new family members” have taught me a lot. I tend to be very pessimistic, but they have often encouraged me, simply through their ability to accept me, demonstrate grace, and overcome obstacles.

The same can be said of my biological family. Their willingness to expand their family and to accept new members is moving. They remind me that there is still plenty of room for forgiveness and goodness in this world.

So, my advice for foster and adoptive parents is – be cautiously open. People may surprise you and you’ll be grateful for the extra support. After, all you’ll need all the help you can get when raising older kids.

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Shannon can be found at her own blog One Inch of Grace.

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